This could be really, really huge news, or (more likely) it could be a very interesting shift in the direction of baseball broadcasting in the streaming era.
According to the AP (see here at Yahoo), the federal lawsuit against MLB about the antitrust implications of its blackout policy, which was supposed to begin a trial this week, has settled. I know that doesn’t sound very sexy, but this is a really important issue, as it impacts a huge number of important things: in-market streaming, the value of TV deals, and the future of watching baseball. You can and should read more on the lawsuit here, if you haven’t already.
If you want my early guess, I’ll break your heart and say that I can’t imagine a situation where MLB settled the case by ending its regional blackout policy. Instead, it’s more likely that the single-team streaming option that is coming this year, as well as perhaps changes to the precise contours of the blackout policy, are going to be what resolves the case.
At any rate, this is probably going to be a big deal, especially to the Cubs, who are so close to their next rights contract. So stay tuned.
UPDATE: A first look at the broad settlement terms from Jeff Passan (though I suspect there are still some finer details to be dissected):
Terms of the MLB settlement in the Garber case are out. And they look pretty good at first glance. pic.twitter.com/tkxfUP81bG
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 19, 2016
So, the single-team option is a go, and everything is getting a price reduction. That’s all good news for MLB.tv users.
It does appear that the regional blackouts will remain (and may not even be reduced in size), but there is one small carrot, if I’m reading correctly: if you have a cable/satellite subscription that includes the RSN for a given team, and you’re in that blackout region and want to watch MLB.tv (instead of your cable/satellite), you will be able to watch the other team’s feed instead of being blacked out. It’s a pretty small carrot – what about folks who have a cable/satellite subscription but are traveling on the road into an area where their team is playing the local team, and would thus be blacked out on MLB.tv? That’s still pretty absurd – and we’ll have to see how the details are fully fleshed out.